Carry The Torch!

by Teresa Jennings

We call this opening piece "A Vocal Fanfare (with percussion and brass)." Certainly pertinent to the upcoming summer events in Sydney, Australia, this song could be used for any occasion that requires a fanfare of pride or legacy. (One of our staff members here suggested it would be great as a show opener, closer, or both.)

The real beauty of this piece, besides its majesty and grandeur, is its flexibility. The melody is singable enough for most grade levels, the harmony is challenging enough for your most discerning older singers, and the piano part is elegantly complementary, but playable.

In addition to the vocal/piano lines on the Performance/Accompaniment CD or cassette, you will be treated to a brass ensemble which includes three trumpets, three horns, three tenor trombones, and two bass trombones. There are also several layers of percussion playing the driving triplet beat: sordus, timpani, mid toms, low toms, snare drums, muffled toms, African ashikos, an Irish drum, a talking drum, an udu, and congas.

You will note that on the recording there are five (yes, five) versions of this 46 second fanfare. The additional three versions are bonus tracks. These are provided to offer you optimum flexibility for your rehearsals and performances.

Version 1 (CD track 1): full performance with vocal melody, three-part vocal harmony, piano, bass, brass, and percussion.
This first version will allow you to hear how the piece will sound when performed in its entirety.
Version 2 (CD track 13): vocal melody only, piano, bass, brass, and percussion.
This version will allow you to hear how the piece sounds when using the vocal melody only. It is also a good tool for rehearsing the melody, or for reinforcing the melody in performance, even if you are adding the vocal harmonies.
Version 3 (CD track 14): three-part vocal harmony only, piano, bass, brass, and percussion.
This version will allow you to hear the segregated three-part harmony. It will also function well in performance as a background for melody-only singing, or for reinforcement of the harmonies.
Version 4 (CD track 15): vocal melody, three-part vocal harmony, piano (no bass or brass) and modified percussion only.
This version will allow you to hear how the piece would sound with all vocal parts when performed live using only a piano and some percussion. It also allows you to hear the vocal lines in more detail, since there is no brass.
Version 5 (CD track 16): piano, bass, brass, and percussion only (no vocals).
This version will allow you to hear the background instrumental parts. It is also the ideal version for a full performance in which your students are singing the melody and/or harmony parts themselves.

If you wish to add movement to this piece, you could easily do so with the use of flags or "torches," which can be moved in a choreographed manner.

If you've ever watched drum and bugle corps, you know that they incorporate flags into units that are known as the "color guard." They use many flags which are large and usually colorful, or at least bearing the color and/or logo of their corps. You could imitate the style and use of corps flags in your performance. How simple or fancy your movements are depends on how many students are using them, what their skill level is, and how much space you have to maneuver. They could even be marching up the aisles as your chorus sings the fanfare. Make a big production out of it!

Of course, smaller flags could be used, too. If you are using the fanfare to celebrate worldwide events, have students hold (move, wave, etc.) flags that represent different nations. Tie this across the curriculum by letting the other teachers know that your students need to learn about these other nations and their flags.

The most important prop (should you choose to use any) is a torch. If you want several performers to use them, you can create torches with paper or fabric "flames" that billow as they are waved. You could also have a torch drawn on a backdrop using vibrant golds and yellows, perhaps even made of shiny materials, such as foil, or covered in glitter. Get the art classes involved, too, and don't forget to credit them in the program.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.